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World Water Day: Two billion people still lack access to safely managed water

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March 22 is World Water Day. Water is vital for human health and survival, and access to water is recognized as a human right. Over the past 21 years, global access to safely managed drinking water (water from improved sources such as a pipe, borehole, or protected well that is accessible on-premises, available when needed, and free from contamination) has steadily progressed: The proportion of the global population with access to safely managed drinking water has increased from 62% in 2000 to 74% in 2020. 

Although we see progress, there are still around 2 billion people around the world without access to safely managed drinking water services. Among them, 771 million people cannot access even basic drinking water services  (water from improved sources with a roundtrip collection time of less than 30 minutes including queuing). People with low access to drinking water services are concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Although the proportion of the population who have access to at least basic drinking water (including people with safely managed or basic access) has also increased for the past 21 years, Sub-Saharan Africa continues to lag compared to other regions. In 2020, only 64% of the population living in Sub-Saharan Africa had access to at least basic drinking water services, compared with more than 90% of the population from the other six regions. 

Particularly, people in rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa suffer from poor access to water compared with people in urban areas. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, only 22% of people from rural areas have access to at least basic drinking water services, while 75% of the people from urban areas do.

Disaggregated data reveals gaps in water access across regions, countries, residencies, and wealth levels. You can find more water data as well as other WASH data (sanitation and hygiene) through the following databases: World Development IndicatorsHealth, Nutrition and Population Statistics, and Health Nutrition and Population Statistics by Wealth Quintile


Haruna Kashiwase

Consultant, Development Data Group, World Bank

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